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  • helenjbutler

What really matters

Have you ever stopped to think about what really drives you? What lies behind the decisions you’ve made your entire life and the stuff that gets you fired up or bored to tears?

This morning I completed a full values elicitation with a client; basically asking them tons of searching questions to work out what’s really important to them, and it reminded me just how life changing it can be. In fact, sometimes the results can be pretty surprising…

Consciously recognizing your values is so important because they’re the principles or standards that you live your life by, and will therefore give you focus, meaning and direction in your life, making it so much easier to set powerful, meaningful goals that you’ll be determined to achieve.

Everybody’s collection of core values is as unique as their fingerprints, and figuring out your own can transform your life.

Because once you know what’s really important to you it makes tough decisions somewhat simpler: you just measure the different options against them and you can normally see fairly quickly what options will help you live those values and which take you a tiny bit (or a lot) further away from them.

Take Rob* – he’s sure that his top value is family. Spending more time with his children and elderly mother is the most important thing to him in the world. However, he’s just been offered a job (with a lot more money and status) working far from home for most of the week. When you look at it that way it can make a difficult decision suddenly zoom into focus and all the counter arguments that you (and others) tell yourself, suddenly pale into the background. It did for Rob.

Of course, all circumstances are unique and it’s rarely as simple as it appears on the surface, but whatever changes in your life it’s unlikely that the very core values that matter to you will change significantly. And if some life event does shake your core beliefs to their very heart, then it’s important you take some time to understand what has changed and what that means for you in your life.

One basic method of working out your core values is by devoting a little bit of time to considering the following:

Think about a time you felt completely fulfilled (or even unfulfilled). What was happening and how did you feel?

When you recall this time, note down any words that feel significant and then look at them objectively afterwards.

Other good questions include:

'What do you hope people say about you when you leave the room?'


‘What state would you do almost anything to avoid experiencing/happening?’

Values are usually single abstract words: so if you’re struggling to articulate yours into one word, try asking ‘what does x give you?’ to get to the value (e.g. security). They’re often the emotion behind the desire for something. The sorts of words you’ll arrive at will be things like integrity, fun, independence and honesty.

It’s important that you recognize what are real values vs what you think your values should be. And of course we all have our own unique definitions of words – there are sometimes subtle (or big) differences between what a word means to two different people.

If you’d like to explore your values further with a free worksheet, then please just drop me a line at

*name changed to protect his modesty

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